Two years is a pretty typical gap between albums for a band.
But there’s been nothing typical about the last two years for any of us. And as Christian rock stalwarts Skillet, led by John and Korey Cooper, unleash new music for fans, it’s clear that the battle against COVID and the bigger battles happening in our culture right now have shaped their approach to songwriting this time around.
“Surviving the Game,” the first single from the group’s forthcoming 11th studio album Dominion (scheduled for release January 14, 2022), throws down a fierce gauntlet of determination. Ferocious and fierce, the song exhorts listeners standing firm amid challenges and conflict.
Cooper recently told the Christian music site Jesus Freak Hideout, “Our new song ‘Surviving The Game’ makes me feel like a bull about to come out of the gate. Within the first 30 seconds of the song you’re taken on a journey that begins with uncertainty and trepidation and leads to an explosion of energy and life. That sums up how I see the future. This has been a tough season, and we are not yet through the storm. We need hope, we need grit, and we will survive. I hope that when people hear ‘Surviving the Game’ it will be the song they’ve been waiting for.”
“Surviving the Game” is a song about conflict, courage and conviction. Cooper (as well as drummer Jen Ledger, who also shares vocal duties) sings from a place of seeing our struggles in life as a battle to be won. Accordingly, the song’s chorus tells us, “I am more than a conqueror” (an allusion to Romans 8:37), followed by what seems to be a paraphrase of Philippians 3:13: “The past behind me, life is ahead.” Cooper then adds, “I’ll take the way of the Warrior.”
Elsewhere, the song contains two more references to the spiritual battle Christians face: “Gonna walk through hell/ … I was born to be demon-defiant (biting)/And I won’t ever let this kingdom fall.”
Lines like those help us to understand the context of the war Skillet is singing about here—a spiritual war against the enemies of Christ. In the midst of that battle, Cooper sings, “All the liars around me/Like the wolves at the walls they surround me/In the face of fear I keep standing tall/I will conquer this.” And the chorus adds, “Surviving the game/I can be unstoppable.”
The song’s sci-fi-like concept video finds the band traveling through a desert when a boy with magical powers disables their car and knocks them out. The band is taken captive, but manage to get free when the same child magically loosens their bonds and escapes with them.
The battle that Cooper sings about at times gets pretty violent—even if only metaphorically, as he talks about “all the bones that you’re breaking,” referring to the enemy.
One other couplet might need some talking through, too, when we hear, “To be more than a conqueror/You have to learn to enjoy the pain.” I’m certain the band doesn’t intend this to be heard as finding pleasure in pain in a sadistic way; rather, I’m sure that they mean finding meaning and purpose—and yes, even joy—as we trust God amid life’s painful moments. But that’s not 100% clear if that line is taken out of the song’s overall context.
Skillet, as always, pulls no punches. Sonically, “Surviving the Game” should satisfy those who’ve been jonesing for another heavy dose of the band’s pummeling sound.
Lyrically, Cooper and Co. powerfully remind us that the battle lines are clear. We are “more than conquerors” in Christ, which gives us courage to stand tall against the enemy of our souls. In Christ, we know that we are capable of “living the impossible/I’m a champion, indestructible.”
Visually, the video for the song seems to tell a story of being released from bondage and helping other people to break free along the way, too.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.